Drunk Driving Across The Country: Which States Have The Most Stringent DUI Laws?

woman standing outside drinking a beer - DUI Defense Springfield

While it’s illegal in every state in the U.S. to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the penalties for breaking the law can vary quite considerably from coast to coast. Today on the blog, we’ll be taking a more in-depth look at which states are the toughest and which are the most lenient when it comes to driving under the influence. From which state has the longest minimum jail time to where you’ll get hit with the most amount of fines along with which states have the most and least amount of DUIs, we are taking a look at the strictest DUI laws in the nation.

The answers may surprise you. 

DUIs Across the United States

Have you ever wondered which states have the most and least DUIs? This article breaks it down for you, starting from the most DUIs to the least amount:

Most DUIs

  • California – 141, 458
  • Texas – 64,971
  • North Carolina – 35,967
  • Ohio – 34,254
  • Florida – 31, 783

Least DUIs

  • Alabama – 3,163
  • Wyoming – 3,157
  • Rhode Island – 2,591
  • Virginia – 2,144
  • Delaware – 386

States With The Toughest DUI LawsPillars with American Flag in the backgroung - Driving while intoxicated Springfield

As previously mentioned, all states consider driving under the influence to be illegal. However, some states have taken their laws a step further than most. 

For example, in 2017, Utah became the state with the most strict laws for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to be able to charge someone with a DUI. While most states float around the .08% BAC level for a DUI charge, Utah’s current laws state that if a person has a BAC of .05% he or she can be charged with a DUI. 

In the United States, 4,300 deaths annually are caused by underage drinking. For this reason, many states have adopted a “zero tolerance” law for underage drinking and driving. An example of this would be if an underage person has a BAC of .02% they would be charged with driving under the influence in Springfield. However, in the following states if you are underage and have any trace of alcohol, you could face DUI charges:


  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • Minnesota
  • North Carolina
  • Oregon
  • Washington D.C.


One state that isn’t necessarily strict on their DUI laws, but rather the length of time the DUI conviction stays on your record, is Virginia. If you are convicted of a DUI related offense in this state, it will remain on your record for 11 years. 

Lastly, where most states will increase penalties for BAC levels that are about twice the amount of the legal limit, New Jersey considers a BAC of .10% to be a high BAC level that could cost you double the amount of fines and jail time. 

Which State Has The Toughest DUI Laws?

According to WalletHub, Arizona is ranked as the state with the toughest laws in the United States. Here’s a basic breakdown of their laws, as provided by this article:


  • First conviction minimum jail time: 10 days
  • Second conviction minimum jail time: 90 days
  • Minimum fine (first conviction): $750
  • Minimum fine (second conviction): $1,750
  • License suspension (first conviction): 90 days
  • Mandatory interlock device (car breathalyzer) after first conviction: Yes

States With The Most Lenient DUI Laws

In comparison with the strictest DUI laws across the country, the following states have some of the most lenient DUI laws. 

In South Dakota, there is no minimum sentence for both the first and second DUI conviction. Furthermore, while a third DUI in South Dakota is a felony charge, none of the following is required:

  • Administrative License Suspension
  • Vehicle Impound
  • Ignition Interlock Device


Other states with lax DUI laws include Pennsylvania, North Dakota, Maryland, Montana, Wisconsin, and Kentucky. 

States With The Harshest DUI PenaltiesDUI in Missouri

Nobody wants to get a DUI, but getting convicted of a DUI in the following states would have much higher penalties than if you were charged with driving under the influence in Springfield. These states have the harshest penalties regarding first-time offenders, jail time, and fines according to Compare.com:

  • Jail Time – If you’re charged in Springfield with driving under the influence and it’s your first time, you will most likely face a jail sentence anywhere from one to five days; this is how most states are. However, in both Arizona and Georgia, there is a minimum 10- day sentence for a first DUI offense. In West Virginia, if a person is convicted of a second DUI offense, he or she will have to spend at least 180 days in jail. This is the longest minimum sentence for a second DUI offense in the United States. 
  • DUI Fines – If a person is convicted of a DUI, they will have to pay some amount of fines in every state. For a first time offender, this usually falls somewhere within the range of $500, not including administrative or possible attorney fees. In Alaska, a first-time offender will have to pay $1,500. This is triple the amount that most people will have to pay in other states for a first-time DUI.


No matter what state you live in, it’s always best to have an attorney on your side. If you’ve been charged with driving under the influence in Springfield, contact the law office of DWI Springfield today